Futura is an exemplar of its time and the most commercially successful German type design of its era. Paul Renner began the design in 1924 and submitted it to the Bauer type foundry of Frankfurt-am-Main in 1925. Futura has remained in continuous production since its release in 1927; revisions, updates, and elaboration of the Futura ‘family’ continued into the early 1970’s.
Futura’s ascenders in lower-case characters such as ‘h’ are taller that the upper-case letters. Such ascenders are found in virtually no other serif-less typeface, but are common in oldstyle typefaces and particularly in the humanist style typefaces that originated in the fifteenth century.
Futura’s ascenders in lower-case characters such as ‘h’ are taller that the upper-case letters. Such ascenders are found in virtually no other serif-less typeface, but are common in oldstyle typefaces and particularly in the humanist style typefaces that originated in the fifteenth century.
There are significant differences between most of the Futura fonts on the market http://www.myfonts.com/search/fu.... Some simply have different character sets with varying degrees of language support or extras like small caps and oldstyle figures. And some actually differ in letterform design.
As a brief general reference, here are some key design differences between a few of the major releases:
As the owner of the Bauer foundry assets, Neufville claims to have the most accurate digital rendition of the original Futura drawings. This may be true, but Neufville isn’t necessarily the best font maker in the business — they have some spacing issues (see the ‘ro’ in the Bold above, for example). Still, this release has the largest family of styles, with small caps and italics for nearly every weight and width.
URW Similar in design to the Neufville. Perhaps with better spacing. Not as large a family with all the extra small caps, but it does have some display weights that could be useful on occasion.
URW Futura No. 2 I read somewhere that this variant appears to be optimized for small text. It is wider, the ascenders are shorter, the counters are larger, and the apertures are more open. On the other hand, the round glyphs (a, g, e,) are more true to the circle than the other URW version. This is especially apparent in the 'e' which looks like it was drawn by an engineer with a compass. This attribute doesn’t make this a great text face, but if you want that strict geometry, No. 2 delivers more of that than most of the others. Only 5 weights — no Light, the thin Book weight fills that gap. The Extra Bold is unique and I think puts on the weight more successfully than the other Extra Bolds out there.
ParaType This version and E+F’s offer the broadest range of weights with 7. (This is because their Heavy is actually usable.) No small caps, though. ParaType is a Russian foundry specializing in Cyrillic, so if you think you might need Russian someday, this is the one to get. Otherwise similar to URW and E+F.
Elsner+Flake Virtually the same design as URW and ParaType. A "Heavy New" weight corrects the problems with the original Heavy.
Bitstream This Futura is a major redraw from the original. In many ways it is a more successful typeface because it abandons some of the strict geometry in favor of a more harmonious whole, but it may not be the Futura you were expecting. The asenders and descenders are shorter, letter widths are more uniform, weights are more consistent (note how little the lettershapes differ between Light and Bold), and the rounds (a, g, b, d, p, q) and 's' are significantly different than other Futuras. In short, this is the least true to the source but may be the most versatile Futura for contemporary design.
Scangraphic This version is unique in that it offers separate families for display (SH) and text (SB) use. The display version is narrower, very tightly spaced, and has no ink traps. Unfortunately, it’s not truly optimized for use at extra large sizes because it still suffers from overshoot distraction (see Typefaces: Why do the points on Futura in letters like A and N rise slightly above and below the heights of other capital letters?). A versatile 7 weights in each family.
Adobe Adobe Avoid this one. Adobe produces some excellent original designs but many of their early revivals (see also Helvetica) are a bit of a mess. In many weights the round shapes are much more oval than circular. In some cases they are even egg-shaped! The Heavy style is a particular atrocity.
Linotype Same design as Adobe’s (I believe it was licensed), though spacing, small details, and character sets may vary.
Paul Friedrich August Renner was born on August 9, 1878 to a theologian father in what used to be the kingdom of Prussia, Wernigerode. Renner’s father raised his five sons alone after the death of his wife early in Paul’s life. Renner survived a strict upbringing, gaining a very German sense of leadership, of duty and responsibility. He was suspicious of abstract art and disliked many forms of modern culture, such as jazz, cinema, and dancing. But equally, he admired the functionalist strain in modernism. He would later reflect on his childhood, stating that his strict Christian home forced a lack of tolerance and gave no harbor to creative ideas.
Renner attended a Gymnasium, a secondary school where one studied the humanities. Nine years of studying Greek and Latin provided students with a ticket to higher education. Renner chose to study art after the Gymnasium, attending several acad- emies where he studied painting and architecture, culminating in his final year of schooling in 1900. He valued his education but felt that upon entering the real world he lacked any ideals and lived in an “artificial world”.
Renner began his career as a commissioned artist, painting landscapes for various organizations. Though trained as an artist, he realized his desire to bring industry and art together to create visually appealing products, and chose to produce things that had a particular use. After meeting and eventually marrying his wife Annie, Renner became a father in 1907, forcing him to take a job with a steady income to support his family.
He found work at the Munich Publishing Trade as a book designer, designing book spines and covers. Renner was able to use what he had learned as a painter in his book illustration, aspiring to find the balance between type and illustration in his work. In 1910 Renner became the co-founder of a small illustration school in Munich.
In 1910 Paul Renner joined the Deutscher Werkbund (German Work Federation), which was a German association of artists, architects, designers, and industrialists. The Werkbund would become an important event in the development of modern architecture and industrial design, particularly in the later creation of the Bauhaus school of design. Its initial purpose was to establish a partnership of product manufacturers with design professionals to improve the competitiveness of German companies in global markets. The Werkbund was less an artistic movement than a state-sponsored effort to integrate traditional crafts and industrial massproduction techniques, to put Germany on a competitive footing with England and the United States. Its motto Vom Sofakissen zum Städtebau (from sofa cushions to city-building) indicates its range of interest.
Due to the industrialization of Germany, a huge debate over tech- nology swept over the country, and Renner’s originally conservative views eventually shifted to advocate for technology. He would lead many debates arguing his belief that a union of art and industry should be formed to benefit each party. While Renner was skeptical of abstract art and many elements of his culture (including dancing, jazz or cinema) he was a firm believer in the functionality of modernism.
A tension between tradition and modernity was integral to two twentieth century debates in German design. The first was the question of style in typography; German speaking countries were unique in still using Gothic letterforms during the first half of the twentieth century. Gothic type became enmeshed in nostalgic notions of German culture during the protracted conservative reaction that crystallized radically with Hitler’s accession to power. The relative virtues of gothic and roman type in a German context were the subject of much discussion during this time, and Renner had strong views on this matter.
The more widespread debate was the Streit um die Technik (the debate on technology), a dispute between conservative and modernizing elements in German society. Renner and his fellow members of the Deutscher Werkbund were fully engaged in the Streit um die Technik. Renner tended towards the conservative side in this debate, but his thinking and activity shifted in the mid 1920s towards a conscious concern with modernity. During this period Renner attempted to resolve a style that suited Germany in the 1920s. At this time in central Europe, technology had begun to transform the media of entertainment and communication: cinema, public radio broadcasting, and sound recording were in their first phases of development; Logie Baird would demonstrate the first television in 1926. It seemed that science had begun to conquer the darkest corners of life.
Renner too felt the progressive urges of his time: he observed that the discovery of the powered press, railway, and electric news transmission had encouraged the creation of “a public forum for our political-social life unforeseen in any utopian novel; not a public sphere operating from eye to eye, or mouth to ear, but in a spiritual dimension overspilling every temporal and spatial barrier.” However, Renner was reluctant to forget all the old values of the humanist culture in which he had grown up in. Renner had assisted in reviving the bibliophile culture that he had known before the First World War with his work on editions for Georg Müller Verlag in 1924. However, the wealth of the bookbuying middle class had been eroded by war and inflation.
The New Typography of the 1920s and 1930s was not hampered much by the book crisis, because it defined itself mostly outside the field of book production. The new breed of artist-typographers, who had progressed into graphic design from painting, set a new agenda for typography, both in their writings and in the kind of work they did. Outside the confines of traditional book typography, they could use photography and the forms of New Typography to create dynamic, painterly compositions related to abstract art. Although the phrase “New Typography” was first used by László Moholy-Nagy in the catalogue of the seminal Bauhaus exhibition in 1923, the principal theoretician of the New Typography was Jan Tschichold. In the 1920s and 1930s, the so called New Typography movement brought graphics and information design to the forefront of the artistic avantgarde in Central Europe. Rejecting traditional arrangement of type in symmetrical columns, modernist designers organized the printed page or poster as a blank field in which blocks of type and illustration (frequently photomontage) could be arranged in harmonious, strikingly asymmetrical compositions.
Taking his lead from currents in Soviet Russia and at the Weimar Bauhaus, the designer Jan Tschichold codified the movement with accessible guidelines in his landmark book Die Neue Typographie (1928). The debate concerning the importance of gothic letterforms in German culture, which had been present in learned circles for some centuries, became a political issue in the early twentieth century. The first three decades of the century were a period of great political and economic change in Germany, which was redefining its role on the world stage; consequently, there was also a domestic struggle to define the German cultural identity, of which many believed Deutsche Schrift to be an integral part. In the year 1913, Renner oversaw the publication of 287 new additions at the Munich Publishing Trade, and became known as a man of constant work, never wasting a moment. A family member once said or Renner’s work ethic: “a day when he did nothing, at least read nothing serious, was for him a day sadly lost.” He developed a new set of standards for quality book design and became well known for his innovations in the industry, while also authoring several books on his principals of design.
As a transitional force, Renner sought to fuse the old Gothic typefaces with the new modern roman typefaces. It was between 1924 and 1926 that Renner invented the typeface Futura, which became a popular choice for text and display composition. Even today, advertising typographers often use the combination of Futura Light/ Book and Futura Extra Bold because of the design’s stylish elegance and commanding visual power. Renner sought to remove the “national dress” of Germany with the introduction of his new typeface, aiming to find a balance between lowercase and capitals. It is based on geometric shapes that became representative visual elements of the Bauhaus design style of 1919-1933. The Bauer Foundry released the Futura font in 1927, originally released in six weights, a condensed version in three weights, and an Inline.
The typeface Futura is an exemplar of its time and certainly the most commercially successful German type design of its era. Paul Renner began the design in 1924 and submitted it to the Bauer type foundry of Frankfurt-am-Main in 1925. Futura has remained in continuous produc- tion since its release in 1927; revisions, updates, and elaboration of the Futura ‘family’ continued into the early 1970’s. Comparing Renner’s initial conception with both the 1927 original foundry character set and the reduced set of 1933 provides an opportunity to investigate the forces leading to the invention of new visual norms and the cultural systems that constrain them.
Social, technological, and economic shifts are paralleled by changes in the forms of visual expression. Two forces drive creation of a new form of public script: developments in the technology used to create the script and governing attitudes at the time of its creation. Because writing, in the sense of using a script for the dissemination of information, is a social act, a third force - the moderating influence of cultural habit - strongly affects writing. Habit restrains any script created to serve the immediate needs of a group from extremes of shape alteration or arrangement and thereby prevents the isolation of the group within its cultural milieu. The presence of extreme letter shapes and new forms of the arrangement of writing in post World War I Europe clearly indicates an attempt to respond to and control immense pressures in a society torn apart by a cataclysm of the first magnitude and sheds light on the cultural, technological, commercial, social, and political aspects of the period between the two world wars.
Renner was imprisoned by the Nazis for a short time for writing a paper criticizing the National socialists promotion of Blackletter (“Kultur-bolschewismus?” (Cultural Bolshevism?)). Renner saw the promotion of Blackletter as propaganda, promoting a cultural aesthetic that was not only a myth but one that went against Renner’s modernist beliefs.
Further at 55, he was dismissed from his teaching post and forbidden to work at a regular job for the rest of his life. Renner survived this humiliation by resorting to what an acquaintance described as an "inner emigration." He turned his attention to graphic design, and in 1939 he published an influential book, Die Kunst der Typographie (The Art of Typography). Ironically, two years later, the Nazis reversed their policy on typography, condemning Gothic typefaces as abominations promoted by Jewish printers, and proclaiming roman fonts to be the state-sanctioned letterform.
Unlike Tschichold, Bayer, and other prominent designers who fled their homeland, Renner chose to remain in Germany, though he was understandably bitter at being "an exile in his own country." Renner died in 1956. In the last years of his life, until he suffered a heart attack, he was still designing books and typefaces, writing, painting, and attempting to traverse the boundaries between art and craft, form and function, tradition and innovation.
The German Empire collapsed at the end of the first World War. In January, 1919, German voters elected a National Assembly to draft a new, republican constitution, at which Chancellor and future President Friedrich Ebert declared that liberation from the constraints of the imperial era was imminent, alluding to the liberal values of the original German revelutionaries. However, as a defeated country, Germany had little control over its own fate, and despite predictions of a liberal, open international order by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, the eventual peace treaties were very different. The Weimar Republic became synonymous with national humiliation and confinement, and its liberal and democratic socialist aspirations were ultimately overwhelmed by a domestic opposition which took the ‘shame’ of the Versailles Treaty as its basic ref- erence point. As a result, the National Socialists were the ultimate beneficiaries of Weimar’s recurrent crises, but Hitler’s (and the Nazi’s) rise to power was neither straightforward or inevitable.
The Nazi party grew out of smaller political groups with a nationalist orientation that formed in the last years of World War I. In the early months of 1918, a party called the Freier Ausschuss für einen deutschen Arbeiterfrieden (Free Committee for a German Workers’ Peace) was created in Bremen, Germany. On March 7, 1918, Anton Drexler, an avid German nation- alist, formed a branch of this league in Munich called the Committee of Independent Workmen. Drexler was a local locksmith in Munich who had been a member of the militarist Fatherland Party during World War I, and was bitterly opposed to the armistice of November 1918 and to the revolutionary upheavals that followed in its wake. Drexler followed the typical views of militant nationalists of the day, but he also accused international capitalism of being a Jewish-dominated movement and denounced capital- ists for war profiteering in World War I. Drexler saw the situation of political violence and instability in Germany as the result of the new Weimar Republic being out-of-touch with the masses, espe- cially the lower classes. Drexler emphasized the need for a synthesis of völkisch nationalism, a strong central government movement, with economic socialism in order that a popular, centrist nationalist-oriented workers movement might be created that could chal- lenge the rise of Communism, as well as the interna- tionalist left and right in general. On January 5, 1919, Drexler created a new political party based on the political principles that he endorsed by combining his Committee of Independent Workmen with a similar group, The Political Worker’s Circle, led by newspaper reporter Karl Harrer. Drexler proposed that the party be named the German Socialist Worker’s Party, but Harrer objected to using the term “socialist” in the name; the issue was settled by removing the term from the name, and it was agreed that the party be named the German Workers’ Party. To ease concerns among potential middleclass nationalist supporters, Drexler made clear that unlike Marxists, the party supported middle-class citizens, and that the party’s socialist policy was meant to give social welfare to German citizens deemed part of the Aryan race. They became one of many völkisch move- ments that existed in Germany at the time. Like other völkisch groups, the DAP advocated the belief that through profit-sharing instead of socialization Germany should become a unified “national commu- nity” (Volksgemeinschaft) rather than a society divided along class and party lines. This ideology was explicitly anti-Semitic as it declared that the “national com- munity” must be judenfrei (“free of Jews”). As early as 1920, the party was raising money by selling a tobacco called Anti-Semit. From the outset, the DAP was opposed to non-nation- alist political movements, especially on the left, includ- ing the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) and the newly formed Communist Party of Germany (KPD). Members of the DAP saw themselves as fight- ing against “Bolshevism” and anyone considered to be part of or aiding so-called “international Jewry”. The DAP was also deeply opposed to the Versailles Treaty.
The DAP did not attempt to make itself public, and meetings were kept in relative secrecy, with public speakers discussing what they thought of Germany’s present state of affairs, or writing to like-minded soci- eties in Northern Germany.
The DAP was a comparatively small group with fewer than 60 members. Nevertheless, it attracted the atten- tion of the German authorities, who were suspicious of any organization that appeared to have subversive tendencies. A young corporal, Adolf Hitler, stationed in Munich, was sent by Captain Mayr, head of press and propaganda in the Bavarian section of the army to investigate the DAP. While attending a party meet- ing on September 12, 1919, where Gottfried Feder was speaking on ‘How and by what means is capitalism to be eliminated?’, Hitler got involved in a heated political argument with a visitor who questioned the soundness of Feder’s arguments and who proposed that Bavaria should break away from Prussia and found a new South German nation with Austria. In vehemently attacking the man’s arguments he made an impression on the other party members with his ora- tory skills and, according to Hitler, the “professor” left the hall acknowledging unequivocal defeat. According to August Kubizek, Drexler was so impressed that he whispered to a neighbor, “My he’s got a gift of the gab. We could use him.” He was invited to join, and after some deliberation, chose to accept. Among the party’s earlier members were Ernst Röhm of the Army’s District Command VII; well-to-do journalist Dietrich Eckart; student at the University of Munich and later deputy of the party Rudolf Hess; Freikorps soldier Hans Frank; and Alfred Rosenberg, often credited as the philosopher of the movement. All of the above were later prominent in the Nazi regime.
Hitler became the DAP’s 55th member and received the number 555, as the DAP added ‘500’ to every mem- ber’s number to exaggerate the party’s strength. He later claimed to be the seventh party member (he was in fact the seventh executive member of the party’s central committee; he would later wear the Golden Party Badge number one). Hitler’s first speech was held in the Hofbräukeller, where he spoke in front of a hundred and eleven people as the second speaker of the evening. He later declared that this was when he realized he could really “make a good speech”. At first Hitler only spoke to relatively small groups on behalf of the party, however in early 1920 he took over the propaganda work for the Party and began to take a more prominent role in its organization; consequently, his public speaking began to attract larger audiences. Hitler began to make the party much more public, and he organized the party’s biggest meeting yet of two thousand people, for February 24, 1920 in the Staatliches Hofbräuhaus in München. Such was the significance of this particular move in publicity that Harrer resigned from the party in disagreement. It was in this speech that Hitler, for the first time, enunciated the twentyfive points of the German Worker’s Party’s manifesto that had been drawn up by Drexler, Feder, and Hitler. Through these points he gave the organi- zation a much bolder stratagem with a clear foreign policy (abrogation of Versailles, a Greater Germany, Eastern expansion, exclusion of Jews from citizenship), and among his specific points were: confiscation of war profits, abolition of unearned incomes, the State to share profits of land, and land for national needs to be taken away without compensation. In general, the manifesto was anti-Semitic, anti-capitalist, anti- democratic, anti-Marxist, and anti-liberal.
On February 24, 1920, the party also added “National Socialist” to its official name in order to appeal to both nationalists and socialists, becoming the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP) (or Nazis for short), although Hitler earlier suggested the party to be renamed the “Social Revolutionary Party”; it was Rudolf Jung who persuaded Hitler to follow the NSDAP naming. Hitler quickly became the party’s most active orator, and he appeared in public as a speaker thirty-one times within the first year after his self-discovery. Hitler always spoke about the same sub- jects: The Treaty of Versailles and the Jewish question.
This deliberate technique and effective publicizing of the party contributed significantly to his early success, about which a contemporary poster wrote ‘Since Herr Hitler is a brilliant speaker, we can hold out the prospect of an extremely exciting evening’. Over the following months, the DAP continued to attract new members, while remaining too small to have any real significance in German politics. By the end of 1920, the party numbered three thousand, many of whom Hitler and Röhm had brought into the party person- ally, or whom Hitler’s oratory had been their reason for joining. Hitler discovered that he had talent as an orator, and his ability to draw new members, combined with his characteristic ruthlessness, soon made him the dominant figure. Drexler recognized this, and Hitler became party chairman on July 28 1921. When the party had been established, it consisted of a leadership board elected by the members, which in turn elected a chairman. Hitler scrapped this arrangement and acquired the title Führer (“leader”) and, after a series of internal conflicts, it was accepted that the party would be governed by the Führerprinzip (“leader principle”). Hitler became the sole leader of the party, and he alone decided its policies and strategy. Hitler at this time saw the party as a revolutionary organization, whose aim was the violent overthrow of the Weimar Republic, which he saw as controlled by the socialists, Jews and the “November criminals” who had betrayed the German soldiers in 1918. The SA ( otherwise known as "storm troopers”) were founded as a party militia in 1921, and began violent attacks on other parties.
Unlike Drexler and other party members, Hitler was less interested in the “socialist” aspect of “national socialism” beyond moving Social Welfare administration from the Church to the State. Himself of provin- cial lower-middle-class origins, he disliked the mass working class of the big cities, and had no sympathy with the notions of attacking private property or the business class (which some early Nazis such as the Strasser brothers espoused). For Hitler the twin goals of the party were always German nationalist expansionism and Anti-Semitism. These two goals were fused in his mind by his belief that Germany’s external enemies (Britain, France and the Soviet Union) were controlled by the Jews, and that Germany’s future wars of national expansion would necessarily entail a war against the Jews. For Hitler and his principal lieutenants, national and racial issues were always dominant. This was symbolized by the adoption as the party emblem of the swastika or Hakenkreuz, at the time widely used in the western world. In German nationalist circles, the swastika was considered a symbol of an “Aryan race”. The Swastika symbolized the replacement of the Christian Cross with allegiance to a National Socialist State.
During 1921 and 1922, the Nazi Party grew significantly, partly through Hitler’s oratorical skills, partly through the SA’s appeal to unemployed young men, and partly because there was a backlash against socialist and liberal politics in Bavaria as Germany’s economic problems deepened and the weakness of the Weimar regime became apparent. The party recruited former World War I soldiers, to whom Hitler as a decorated frontline veteran could particularly appeal, as well as small businessmen and disaffected former members of rival parties. Nazi rallies were often held in beer halls, where downtrodden men could get free beer. The Hitler Youth was formed for the children of party members, although it remained small until the late 1920s. The party also formed groups in other parts of Germany. Julius Streicher in Nuremberg was an early recruit, and became editor of the racist magazine Der Stürmer. Others to join the party around this time were WW I flying ace Hermann Göring and Heinrich Himmler. In December 1920 the party acquired a newspaper, the Völkischer Beobachter, of which NSDAP ideological chief Alfred Rosenberg became editor.
In 1922, a party with remarkably similar policies and objectives came into power in Italy, the National Fascist Party under the leadership of the charismatic Benito Mussolini. The Fascists, like the Nazis, pro- moted a national rebirth of their country; opposed communism and liberalism; appealed to the workingclass; opposed the Treaty of Versailles; and advocated the territorial expansion of their country. The Italian Fascists used a straight-armed Roman salute and wore black-shirted uniforms. Mussolini and the Fascists inspired Hitler, and he borrowed their use of the straight-armed salute as a Nazi salute. When the Fascists came to power in 1922 in Italy through their coup attempt called the “March on Rome”, Hitler began planning his own coup which would materialize one year later.
In January 1923 France occupied the Ruhr industrial region as a result of Germany’s failure to meet its reparations payments. This led to economic chaos, the resignation of Wilhelm Cuno’s government, and an attempt by the German Communist Party (KPD) to stage a revolution. The reaction to these events was an upsurge of nationalist sentiment. Nazi Party member- ship grew sharply, to about 20,000. By November, Hitler had decided that the time was right for an attempt to seize power in Munich, in the hope that the Reichswehr (the post-war German army) would mutiny against the Berlin government and join his revolt. On the night of November 8, the Nazis used a patriotic rally in a Munich beer hall to launch an attempted putsch (coup d’état). This so called Beer Hall Putsch attempt failed almost at once when the local Reichswehr commanders refused to support it. On the morning of November 9 the Nazis staged a march of about 2,000 supporters through Munich in an attempt to rally support. Troops opened fire, and 16 Nazis were killed. Hitler, Ludendorff and a number of oth- ers were arrested, and were tried for treason in March 1924, though Hitler and his associates were given very lenient prison sentences. While Hitler was in prison, he wrote his semi-autobiographical political manifesto Mein Kampf (“My Struggle”).
The Nazi Party was banned, though with support of the nationalist Völkisch-Social Bloc, continued to operate under the name of the “German Party” (Deutsche Partei) from 1924 to 1925. The Nazis failed to remain unified in the German Party, as in the north, the right-wing Volkish nationalist supporters moved to the new German Völkisch Freedom Party, leaving the North’s left-wing Nazi members, such as Joseph Goebbels retaining support for the party.
Adolf Hitler was released in December 1924. In the following year he refounded and reorganized the Nazi Party, naming himself its undisputed Leader. The new Nazi Party was no longer a paramilitary organization, and disavowed any intention of taking power by force. In any case, the economic and political situation had stabilized and the extremist upsurge of 1923 had faded, so there was no prospect of further revolution- ary endeavors. The Nazi Party of 1925 was divided into the Korps der politischen Leiter (“Leadership Corps”), appointed by Hitler, and the Parteimitglieder (gen- eral membership). The party and the SA were kept separate, and the legal aspect of the party’s work was emphasized. The SA and the SS (founded in April 1925 as Hitler’s bodyguard, commanded by Himmler) were described as “support groups”, and all members of these groups had first to become regular party mem- bers. By the early 1930s, the senior leaders of the party after Hitler included Himmler, Goebbels and Göring. Beneath the Leadership Corps were the party’s regional leaders, the Gauleiters, each of whom commanded the party in his Gau (“region”). There were 98 Gaue for Germany and an additional seven for Austria, the Sudetenland (in Czechoslovakia), Danzig and the Territory of the Saar Basin (then under French occupation). Joseph Goebbels began his ascent through the party hierarchy as Gauleiter of Berlin-Brandenburg in 1926. Streicher was Gauleiter of Franconia, where he published his anti-Semitic news- paper Der Stürmer.
The Nazis contested elections to the national parliament, the Reichstag, and to the state legislatures, the Landtags, from 1924, although at first with little success. Despite this lack of success, and despite Germany’s relative political stability and prosperity during the later 1920s, the Nazi Party continued to grow. This was partly because Hitler, who had no administrative ability, left the party organization to the head of the secretariat, Philipp Bouhler, the party treasurer Franz Xaver Schwarz and business manager Max Amann. The party had a capable propaganda head in Gregor Strasser, who was promoted to national organizational leader in January 1928. These men gave the party effi- cient recruitment and organizational structures. The party also owed its growth to the gradual fading away of competitor nationalist groups, such as the DNVP. As Hitler became the recognized head of the German nationalists, other groups declined, or were absorbed.
The party expanded in the 1920s beyond its Bavarian base. Catholic Bavaria maintained its right-wing ennui for a Catholic monarch; and Westphalia, along with workingclass “Red Berlin”, were always the Nazis’ weakest areas electorally. The areas of strongest Nazi support were in rural Protestant areas such as Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg, Pomerania and East Prussia. Depressed working-class areas such as Thuringia also gave a strong Nazi vote, while the workers of the Ruhr and Hamburg largely remained loyal to the SPD, the KPD, or the Catholic Centre Party.
Despite these strengths, the Nazi Party might never have come to power had it not been for the Great Depression and its effects on Germany. By 1930 the German economy was beset with mass unemployment and widespread business failures. The SPD and the KPD parties were bitterly divided and unable to formulate an effective solution: This gave the Nazis their opportunity, and Hitler’s message, blaming the crisis on the Jewish financiers and the Bolsheviks, resonated with wide sections of the electorate. Hitler proved to be a highly effective campaigner, pioneering the use of radio and aircraft for this purpose. His dismissal of Strasser and appointment of Goebbels as the party’s propaganda chief was a major factor. While Strasser had used his position to promote his own leftish ver- sion of national socialism, Goebbels was totally loyal to Hitler, and worked only to burnish Hitler’s image.
The 1930 elections changed the German political land- scape by weakening the traditional nationalist parties, the DNVP and the DVP, leaving the Nazis as the chief alternative to the discredited SPD and the Zentrum, whose leader, Heinrich Brüning, headed a weak minority government. The inability of the democratic parties to form a united front, the selfimposed isolation of the KPD, and the continued decline of the economy, all played into Hitler’s hands. He now came to be seen as de facto leader of the opposition.
During 1931 and into 1932, Germany’s political crisis deepened. In March 1932 Hitler ran for President but polled fewer votes against the incumbent President Paul von Hindenburg. By now the SA had 400,000 members, and its running street battles with the SPD and KPD paramilitaries (who also fought each other) reduced some German cities to combat zones. Paradoxically, although the Nazis were among the main instigators of this disorder, part of Hitler’s appeal to a frightened and demoralized middle class was his promise to restore law and order. Overt anti- Semitism was played down in official Nazi rhetoric, but was never far from the surface. Germans voted for Hitler primarily because of his promises to revive the economy (by unspecified means), to restore German greatness and overturn the Treaty of Versailles, and to save Germany from communism.
On July 20 1932, the Prussian government was ousted by a coup, and a few days later at the July 1932 Reichstag election the Nazis made another leap forward, polling 37.4% and becoming the largest party in the Reichstag by a wide margin. Furthermore, the Nazis and the KPD between them won 52% of the vote and a majority of seats. Since both parties opposed the established political system, and neither would join or support any ministry, this made the formation of a majority government impossible. The result was weak ministries governing by decree.
Chancellor Franz von Papen called another Reichstag election in November, hoping to find a way out of this impasse. The electoral result was the same, rendering this Reichstag no more workable than its predecessor. However, support for the Nazis fell to 33.1%, sug- gesting that the Nazi surge had passed its peak. The Nazis interpreted the result as a warning that they must seize power before their moment passed. Had the other parties united, this could have been prevented, but their shortsightedness made a united front impossible. Papen, his successor Kurt von Schleicher, and the nationalist press magnate Alfred Hugenberg spent December and January in political intrigues that eventually persuaded President Hindenburg it was safe to appoint Hitler Reich Chancellor at the head of a cabinet including only a minority of Nazi ministers, which he did on 30 January 1933. The votes that the Nazis received in the 1932 elections established the Nazi Party as the largest parliamentary faction of the Weimar Republic government. Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany on 30 January 1933.
The Reichstag fire on 27 February 1933, was Adolf Hitler's raison d’état for suppressing his political opponents. The following day, February 28, he persuaded Weimar Republic President Paul von Hindenburg to grant him, as German Chancellor, an emergency-powers decree suspending civil liberties and the governments of the German federal states. On 23 March, with an Enabling Act (four-year Presidential decree-law power circumventing the Reichstag), the Reichstag conferred dictatorial powers to Chancellor Adolf Hitler, who subsequently personally managed the political emergencies of the German State, by decree. Moreover, then possessing virtually absolute power, the Nazis established totalitarian control; they abolished labor unions and political parties; and imprisoned their political opponents, first at impro- vised camps, then in concentration camps. Nazism had been established, yet the Reichswehr remained impartial, and Nazi power over Germany remained virtual, not absolute.